As the political storm crashes around the Prime Minister, I can at least report he isn’t panicking, not yet anyway. He and his team are well aware that, in the current political climate, little they do will actually stop the media circus from rolling along. Instead, they must wait for bigger stories to emerge.
The ‘donorgate’ story is an example of the Westminster media village in full flow. Privately, the lobby hacks are saying David Abrahams, the businessman at the centre of the furore, may have fantasist tendencies, but this has not stopped two supposed ‘serious’ papers, The Guardian and The Independent, from running articles by him on consecutive days to keep the story going.
The BBC simply can’t keep out of the story either. Unbelievably, the Beeb led its Sunday news bulletins with the Wendy Alexander revelations in Scotland, even though the story was three days old.
The BBC’s flagship radio programme, The World at One, even used an ex-junior minister accusing Gordon Brown of ‘lacking vision’.
Everyone, from serious commentators to political hacks and people in the Westminster bars, has been telling me what the Labour Party is doing wrong and how they would handle the PR operation if they were in charge. But I reckon that if the PM listened to most of them he’d be out of a job by now. One actually said he thought the problem was that Gordon Brown gave the media too much information about what had happened at Labour HQ.
Most certainly ignore the very serious Hayden Phillips proposals on party funding, which have been going on for 18 months and address Labour’s links with the trade unions. And, incredibly, even the BBC does not have a single dedicated reporter dealing with such vital industrial matters. The Times remains the last newspaper to have one.
All this makes the Downing Street media operation’s task very difficult. Events are currently conspiring against Brown’s media team, but its members know very well that if the polls can move from an 11-point advantage to an 11-point deficit in just a month, then they can easily move back again as quickly.
Brown, meanwhile, seems remarkably calm and continues to talk about the long term. Maybe he has checked with the bookies, who still have a Labour win at the next general election at odds of 11/10.